Sleepless in Kansas City

One of the disadvantages I’ve found in getting older is not sleeping as well as I did in my youth. Ever since childhood, I’ve had trouble sleeping during times of stress, but now I hardly ever sleep for eight hours straight. Most nights I wake up once, but some nights I can’t fall asleep, and other nights I wake up around 1:00 or 2:00am and lie awake for an hour or two.

Rarely do my dreams wake me up. In fact, I don’t remember many of my dreams. I used to, but this seems to be another age-related change. Or else most of my dreams now are boring.

I do still dream in color. In the 1940s, most people reported dreaming only in black and white, but now 80% of people say they dream in color. There is some speculation that the shift is related to the development of color television.

My husband read somewhere that monophasic sleep (solid sleep for a single period each night) is actually a modern phenomenon. People used to have biphasic sleep, in which they slept for two periods in a 24-hour day. That, apparently, is where the practice of naps and siestas came from.

Some experiments have found that when people have no regular sleep schedule imposed on them, they gravitate to two four-hour periods of sleep separated by a couple of hours. Many of my nights follow this pattern. Since I learned this factoid, I’ve tried not to worry when I lie awake in bed. After all, I also read somewhere that just lying quietly gives one 80% of the benefit of sleeping (though I doubt that.)

Older generations in my family also had wakeful periods at night. My father went to bed around 8:00pm whenever his schedule permitted. He would often get up again around 10:00 or 11:00, drink some Pepsi and go back to bed. Then he was ready for his next day to start at 5:00am.

My mother, by contrast, liked to stay up reading until 11:00 or so. But she often fell asleep on the couch, until my dad woke her up. In the morning, she would stay in bed well after he was up—or at least that’s what she did once she didn’t have kids to get off to school.

When I visited my paternal grandparents as a small child, my bed was usually the living room couch with a chair placed next to it so I wouldn’t roll off. Sometimes I woke in the middle of the night and saw my grandmother sitting in a chair nearby, smoking a cigarette. She sat with one leg tucked up under her, the way I still sit whenever I can do so without opprobrium. I don’t smoke, but I think of her whenever I move around my house in the dark and whenever I curl my feet up in a chair.

My husband’s grandmother also used to walk the halls when she couldn’t sleep. She would move from bed to bed trying to find a restful spot—some nights she spent time in all three bedrooms in their house.

Ereader in night mode

Using an ereader doesn’t help my sleeplessness. I know it’s a bad idea to have that light shining in my face when I’m trying to sleep, but what else is there to do at 2:00am? I use a blue filter to minimize the brightness and I turn on the night mode in my reading apps. With these adjustments to the screen, reading often lulls me back to sleep.

Before I began writing, I used to try to distract myself in the middle of the night by making up stories in my head. Some of the ideas for my novels developed during these nocturnal musings. But now that I’m a writer, that’s work! I still do it sometimes, but since I now want to remember any good plot points I imagine, it’s not as restful as it used to be.

So I read newspaper headlines instead. The Wall Street Journal is delivered to my email inbox shortly after midnight, and The New York Times headlines come in the wee hours of the morning. Trying to focus on economic and international news is usually enough to put me to sleep. If it doesn’t make me mad.

What do you do when you wake up in the middle of the night?

A Tale of Two New Computers

I wrote in January 2013 about having to replace two computers and an e-reader within a few short months. Four-and-a-half years later, I’m in a similar situation. After replacing my husband’s and my cell phones last December and our printer in February, I am now in the middle of upgrading our two computers.

The keyboard and a USB port on my old laptop—the sweet little laptop that produced my two novels—were going bad. The computer worked fine with an external keyboard, but it wasn’t reliable as a true laptop any longer. And I worried that if the one remaining USB port stopped working, I wouldn’t be able to back up my data to the external hard drive.

Meanwhile, the desktop my husband uses has become painfully slow, despite a full overhaul last summer. Booting up takes forever. I click on the Quicken icon and can go downstairs for a Diet Coke before the program loads. My husband has tolerated this glacial speed, but I can no longer stand it.

The time has come. These machines have done yeoman’s work. They deserve a rest. They deserve another home with someone who will appreciate them the way I no longer can. So in March I ordered two computers.

My new laptop arrived—a 13-inch convertible HP Spectre with a touchscreen, tons of RAM, and a solid-state hard drive. It’s essentially a souped-up version of the little laptop that has been my partner for the past several years.

New laptop

I love the device, but I hate the set-up. I’ve had the new laptop almost two weeks now, and it still doesn’t operate the way I want. I can do most things, but finding files I moved to its hard drive takes a little work (mostly because I’m trying to organize my data more rationally than on the old laptop). Even programs aren’t always where I expect them to be.

I’ve switched to Microsoft Office 365. I don’t like subscription plans for software, but Microsoft sets their prices so that the 365 plan makes the most sense financially if you have more than one device you want to load Office on. Plus you get tons of cloud storage. Thankfully, this version of Office looks enough like the old that I can type. But I had to install the custom fonts I used on my novels again, and I’m not sure I have them all yet. I’ll need to inspect everything before I can format my new novel to look like the others in the series (though that is months down the road).

I’ve downloaded Scrivener and Evernote and my backup software. I’ve loaded the Kindle and Nook apps and made Chrome my default browser. But I found out that my photo editing preference—Picasa—is no longer available. So that was a huge disappointment, until I moved it from my old computer to the new one (it’s working at this point).

The backup software I’ve used with my external hard drive to back up continuously doesn’t work on this laptop. The software that backs up hourly seems to work fine, but not the continuous backup. Western Digital can’t explain why, though they have offered telephone assistance, which I have yet to take advantage of.

Recently I had to use the laptop without the external keyboard and mouse, and I realized I’m going to have to make some changes in the trackpad.

Every day I find a new issue.

But even more frustrating than my set-up issues on the laptop is that HP lost the new desktop I ordered for over three weeks. I ordered it on March 17, and it was supposed to ship on March 20 and be delivered on March 24.

When there was no update to my order status page by March 25, I filed a complaint. I was told the computer had shipped on March 24. When several days later my order status page still said it would ship on March 20, I emailed HP again. I was told it would be shipped by April 6.

No change.

On April 7, I called HP’s customer service line. I was not given a firm ship date, but I was given a discount off the purchase price. Then finally, on April 8, I had an email from HP stating that the desktop had shipped. I now have a FedEx tracking number, and my order status page says the computer should arrive on April 11.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I’ll have to go through the whole set-up process again. With my husband breathing down my neck (like he did the last time), wondering why it doesn’t work exactly like the old one. In addition to all the issues I described with the laptop, it will have Windows 10 instead of Windows 7, so it will look very different to him. But I bet he’ll be happier with its speed.

We are so reliant on technology these days. And yet, have things changed that much from when the horseless carriage replaced the wagon? We still have to fight our new devices and we lose productivity while we figure them out. We have the entire knowledge-base of the world at our fingertips, and yet a mechanically malfunctioning key can keep us from entering the password that allows us to access this knowledge. That was never a problem with the encyclopedia on the bookshelf.

What do you hate most about replacing a computer?

A Neophyte (Me) Develops a Website

My new website, http://www.TheresaHuppAuthor.com, has been live for a few weeks now. Regular readers might have noticed that I’m still tweaking things—the background, colors, etc. But I thought I would recap what I’ve learned as I developed this site.

My decision to develop my own website, rather than continue with my Story & History blog on WordPress.com, was only the first of many decisions. I knew I wanted a website built on WordPress.org (the WordPress platform for self-hosted sites), thinking that because I was familiar with WordPress.com, I could learn WordPress.org fairly easily. The decision to build my website on WordPress.org narrowed some other decisions, though the options were still legion.

I relied heavily on WPbeginner.com, which has many articles and videos that I found very helpful. Anyone wanting to build a website on WordPress.org should check this site out.

1. Which company will host my website?

There are countless hosting sites available these days. Some are free. Most cost a small amount each month—or more, if you want more options, such as backup service, greater online support, etc.

As I researched designing websites built on WordPress.org, I learned that WordPress recommends two hosting services—Bluehost and SiteGround. I was also familiar with GoDaddy through another organization I’m in. There are other comparable services, so do your own research and get recommendations from friends before you commit.

I compared the hosting services I knew of. In the end, I went with Bluehost, in part because they were offering a slight discount when I was ready to buy, and in part because they received excellent reviews for their customer service and support.

So far, I have had to consult the Bluehost technical support once. The Bluehost chat representative who helped me was reasonably prompt and quite courteous. I hope I don’t need them often, but I’m encouraged that my first experience was positive.

2. What theme will I use?

Once I set up my account through Bluehost and downloaded WordPress.org to my new site (yay! I have a website!), the next step was to select a theme that would aid in designing my site. Strictly speaking, this step is not necessary, and I could have designed everything from the ground up in WordPress. But, as the title of this post says, I am a neophyte. I wanted the comfort of a template to get me going.

I had researched many themes before I started, reading lists of “best themes for authors” and “best themes for small businesses” and the like. I had probably looked at demos on about thirty different themes. I decided I wanted a theme that supported both a static home page and a blog page. Most themes do, but I also wanted support for e-commerce and portfolio displays. I’m not planning to sell my books through my website now, but someday I might choose to. And I like the look of portfolio sites and thought I might showcase my book covers that way (though so far I have not used that option).

In the end, I elected to use the Vantage theme by SiteOrigin. My primary motivation was that SiteOrigin also developed the PageBuilder plug-in that WPBeginner said was the best free page design tool for WordPress.org.

So I downloaded the Vantage theme and PageBuilder, and blithely began to design my website. Vantage has a free version, and that’s what I’m using now. I might upgrade to the premium version in the future, but at the moment I am overwhelmed enough.

3. What pages do I want on my site?

I had given this some thought prior to actually building the site. I knew most of the pages I wanted, and I knew what content I wanted on each page, though I had not written the text yet. I wanted a welcome message on my home page, a blog page where I would import my posts from Story & History and continue writing new posts, a page for each of my novels, a bio, a contact page, and a few extras for readers and writers. I’d looked at many author websites, and those seemed to be the standard features.

So then I started designing. My ideas changed a bit as I worked. I came up with some new ideas. But having an overview in mind before I started was a big help.

4. How the heck do you use PageBuilder anyway?

I finally got the slider on my News & Events page to work!

PageBuilder was not as intuitive as I had expected. It operates with modules, and offers a wide variety of modules, including text blocks, image blocks, sliders (for slide shows), contact pages, social media links, action buttons, and others. But which modules work best for which purposes?

I spent a couple of weeks experimenting. And countless minutes during those weeks going back and forth between one menu and the next trying to find what I wanted.

I never did get the masthead built the way I envisioned, and ended up creating the image I wanted in Canva, then loading it into a header widget. (If that last sentence doesn’t make sense to you, don’t worry about it.)

What that slider looks like in PageBuilder

Over those two weeks, I felt I learned PageBuilder pretty well. I learned to design my rows, put in spacers where I wanted them, add the text and image widgets I wanted, and move the widgets around until the pages looked close to what I wanted.

5. How do I import my blog?

I found instructions for how to move a WordPress.com blog to WordPress.org, and I followed the instructions. But nothing happened.

I tried again. Again, nothing happened.

Then I found instructions for how to make sure that my WordPress.org taxonomy (how posts are named) matched the post names on my WordPress.com blog. I changed my taxonomy, and tried again. About twenty of my 500 posts transferred. I tried again. About twenty more transferred.

And so on. Finally, I had all my posts on the new website.

I asked the WPBeginner people if this was common, and I was told that if the blog is big and has lots of photos or other attachments, then, yes, it can take a long time to import everything

6. Will I keep my subscribers?

I think the answer to this is yes, but I can’t honestly be sure. All the old subscribers show up in my WordPress statistics, but I can’t be sure what readers are seeing. My regular readers seem to have found the new site, but some people who used to comment on the WordPress.com blog do not seem to have followed me.

In addition, the new site no longer ranks as high on Google searches as my old blog did. I think Google must give priority in their rankings to WordPress.com—a priority my humble domain TheresaHuppAuthor.com doesn’t receive. I’ve noticed that some of my posts linked to Google+ do show up on the first page of search results, and clicking on those does get me to the new website.

I’m still linking to social media sites, so over time, I hope people will find me and that this issue becomes minimal.

7. How do I upload new posts?

I launched the website on a Wednesday. I had until Monday to write and upload my next scheduled post. I draft my posts in Scrivener, then copy and paste to the site.

I’ve found that blogging on WordPress.org is a lot like blogging on WordPress.com was five years ago when I started. I’m familiar with how it works, but WordPress.com is much more intuitive now, and I’ve had to remember my old checklists and where things are located, to make sure I get a post ready for publication—categorizing the post, adding tags, scheduling the post for the right day and time, etc.

And I wasn’t sure how to use featured images. I’d never bothered with those in on my blog—I’d just let WordPress.com decide what image to feature. But I didn’t want my website masthead showing up as the featured image all the time, so I now have to specify another image. Which puts that image at the top of the post. Which means that readers will be seeing a lot more large images at the top of my posts in the future.

8. What don’t I know?

There are things I know I don’t know, and there are things I don’t know I don’t know. In the former category, are the following:

  • Everything to do with the hosting service—cPanel and FTP and PHP—acronyms that I can’t even translate.
  • Whether and how to use email on the server or continue to link with my Gmail account.
  • What ongoing maintenance I will need to do.
  • What the best way to back up the site is—I am backing it up regularly, but is it worth it to pay for a backup service?
  • What additional functionality should I add with plug-ins and widgets?
  • What could I do with e-commerce that would be as easy and profitable as Amazon’s online fulfillment and royalty payments?

In the latter category—what I don’t know I don’t know—you’ll have to tell me.

This has not been an easy process, and I’m not totally satisfied with the result at this point. I’m open to suggestions.

Readers, what changes to my website would you like to see? Please leave a comment or contact me. Nothing is too small to suggest—fonts, layout, whatever you’d like to see me do differently.

Where Am I on Social Media? And Where Are You?

stocksnap_3czq87f245-computer-womanUsing social media takes a lot of time. Some of it is wasted time, some of it is productive—at least in terms of learning what our friends are doing and thinking. Now that the election is over, I can read most people’s posts without my blood pressure rising.

Authors are told to be active on social media, though most marketing gurus now say you don’t have to be everywhere—choose a couple of platforms where your audience is, and emphasize those. I’ve tried to focus my attention to a few sites, using passive links to provide content to the rest.

So where am I on social media?

I post most of my “new” content on this blog. I write about my life and my writing and share it with readers on Monday and Wednesday each week. For the most direct connection with me, you should subscribe to this blog.

I link most of my blog posts to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and LinkedIn. I almost always link to my Facebook author page, and I post some new content about writing there also.

If I think my posts are of interest to my “real” friends, I post to my personal Facebook page as well. I also put passive links to my blog posts on my Amazon Author Page and on my Goodreads Author Page, but I rarely update those pages directly.

I’m fairly active on Facebook, so if you want to start a conversation with me and don’t want to comment on a post here on WordPress, my Facebook author page is the best place to find me. I have made several new friends this way and also reconnected with old friends and acquaintances—which is one of the prime benefits of social media.

I’m on Twitter, but I don’t do much with my personal handle (@MTHupp). I joined Twitter to follow my son, though I admit I have more followers than close friends and family now.

My son moved on to Instagram, so I created an Instagram account, but I don’t do much with it. Other than to look at pictures of my son’s dog and my niece’s kids. It’s the best way I’ve found to stay connected with them.

I wonder what the next new thing will be? I’ll have to follow where the younger generation leads me.

I have a Pinterest page, and I’ve linked some of my blog posts to my Pinterest boards (check out my Story & History board, and I also have Oregon Trail and California Gold Rush boards). Unfortunately, I find Pinterest even more addictive than Facebook, so I don’t go there very frequently—if I did, I would waste hours.

WBT Impact ArchI’m also active as part of the Write Brain Trust group for self-published authors. We maintain a public presence on Facebook and Twitter. I curate many of the posts on those sites. What I try to do is to post the best of what I read about writing and publishing on the Write Brain Trust sites for the benefit of other writers.

RLKC profile picThrough Write Brain Trust, we’ve also launched a Facebook page for readers, Read Local Kansas City. A group of Kansas City authors finds people of interest to Kansas City area readers to spotlight each week, and we also post information about literary events and library happenings in the region. We’d love to add more Kansas City area readers—so please like this page, if you’re interested. Read Local Kansas City is also present on Twitter (@ReadLocalKC).

Take a moment to explore all the links in this post. Writers want their work to be accessible to readers, wherever readers are. I hope each of you will follow me wherever you like to hang out. And I’m always open to feedback.

Readers, what social media platform is your favorite? Why? Or do you avoid it all?

Pixels and PEBKAC

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Me buying a new cell phone

My husband and I recently began having cell phone problems. My phone was almost three years old, and its storage capacity was exhausted. I periodically had to delete apps and empty caches and the like so I could download my email. I couldn’t take more than a few pictures before I needed to offload them to my PC. I had already replaced the battery once, and it seemed to be discharging more quickly.

My husband’s phone was a generation newer than mine. He bought it six months after I got mine, and it had just passed its two-year contract expiration. But his screen randomly flashed and went black. He could get the visuals back, but all signs indicated a developing illness in his phone. Probably fatal.

So I decided it was time to buy new phones. I did some Internet research and identified several acceptable options. Then I read that Verizon (our provider) was offering a BOGO50 sale. My husband wasn’t eager to upgrade, but he knew we had to do something soon. I convinced him to set a shopping date for a recent Friday afternoon.

That Friday I raced home after my lunch appointment to meet him. He wasn’t there. A note on our kitchen table revealed he had a hastily scheduled meeting and might miss our phone excursion.

He showed up about 4:30pm. We decided there was still time to head to the Verizon store, though I warned him it was likely to take until about 6:00 or so to handle all the paperwork and phone setup. Neither of us does well with extended shopping events. I also emphasized that we didn’t have to buy anything that day, if we didn’t like their choices and prices.

When we pulled into the parking lot, I saw a TV camera inside the store. Uh, oh. I was afraid the salespeople would be tied up with publicity and wouldn’t focus on us. But we’d made it this far, so in we went.

A very nice sales clerk talked us through our options and showed us how all their deals could be “stacked” (as she put it) to allow us to get two latest-technology Google Pixel phones—the second for around $200. She said for the same monthly bill we’d been paying, with the same shared data level, we could get two brand new Google Pixel phones with protection plans.

Of the options I had identified, the Google Pixel was the phone I secretly wanted, so I was happy. We proceeded to pick colors, cases, etc., and she transferred all our old data to the phones.

Meanwhile, the TV cameraman asked my husband and me if we would be willing to be interviewed about our phone-buying experience. We didn’t want to be curmudgeons, so we agreed.

And about 6:15pm, interviews recorded, we walked out of the store with a box of chargers and our new Pixels still downloading the apps we’d had on the old phones. We went to out to dinner, ran another errand, and got home just before 8:00pm, phones still downloading apps.

“We’ve used 75% of our monthly data already!” I exclaimed. “And we’re only two days into our billing cycle.”

I immediately logged both phones onto our home wi-fi to stanch the data bleed. Then I texted our kids, proud to report we had brand new Google Pixels. We’re rarely the coolest people in the family, but I thought this might upgrade our status with the next generation.

Our daughter called me back. It took me five swipes to figure out how to answer the phone.

Two days later I was on my way to the airport to retrieve our son. He called me, and I still couldn’t answer my phone. Of course, I was driving so I couldn’t look at the screen for instructions.

And when I later tried to hook up the Pixel to my car via Bluetooth, it didn’t work.

I had to install the fingerprint reader on my Pixel, because pushing the power button every time the phone went into screen saver mode hurt my thumb.

Then I read a November 20 article in The Wall Street Journal on the language of start-ups and found the term PEBCAK—an acronym I’d never heard before. It stands for “Problem Exists Between Chair and Keyboard” or “Problems Emerge Between Chair and Keyboard.” A variation is PIBCAK (”Problem Is Between Chair and Keyboard”). According to The Wall Street Journal, these phrases are a “programmer term for what happens when users are too dumb to use software correctly.” Though I think it applies to hardware as well.

Count me as a PEBCAK when it comes to cell phones.

I don’t like telephones, and my dislike of faceless oral communication has extended to cell phones. I like smart phones as data devices—for checking email, giving me driving directions, and taking pictures. I like having the safety of a phone for emergency calls.

But I don’t want to be accessible to anyone anywhere anytime the other person wants to contact me. I only want my smart phone for my convenience.

So call me PEBCAK about cell phones. Just don’t call me on the phone.

Still, I’m getting to like the Google Pixel. It’s taken days of playing with screen savers and apps and home screens to get the Pixel to look almost the way I want. I managed to turn on the Safe Mode to avoid data surcharges until I decide whether to buy more data for this month. It took three tries, but I figured out how to connect the phone to my car.

Soon I may be functional with my phone again. As functional as I want to be.

What PEBCAK experiences have you had with technology?

Chihuly Garden and Glass Gallery

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Room-sized Chihuly glass sculpture

I’ve done a fair amount of sightseeing in Seattle, but I’d never been to the Chihuly Garden and Glass Gallery until a trip this autumn. The gallery and gardens sit under the Space Needle, but somehow I’d always passed them by. This time, I made a special visit just to see them.

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Chihuly glass piece based on Native American basket

I was disappointed in the gallery itself. Not that the glass pieces aren’t fabulous—they are. But they were displayed in dark rooms, the museum was crowded on the day I went, and I couldn’t spent the time examining the works up close and at length, the way I wanted to.

Plus, I was hungry and thirsty.

So I rushed through the eight rooms in the gallary and found my way to the cafe. There I sat for awhile with iced tea and panna cotta, while I listened to the online audio program of what I’d just seen. [link]

I should have done the visit in reverse—eaten first and put some caffeine in me, then listened to the audio program either before or while I went through the galleries. I should have gone through the museum at my own pace despite the crowds.

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In Chihuly glasshouse, showing proximity to Space Needle

But at least I did the gardens right. After my snack in the cafe revived me, I walked through the glasshouse outside to the gardens, not really intending to spend much time there. But it was a lovely fall afternoon, mid-60s and sunny—Seattle on its best behavior. I lingered in the gardens, taking many pictures.

The gardens are a fantastic and fantastical blend of natural and man-made treasures. A juxtaposition of nature and of art.

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Log and glass

 

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What is natural? What is man-made?

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What is natural? What is man-made?

I took whimsical “selfies” of myself with the Space Needle mirrored in glass globes.

 

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Can you see me?

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How about now?

I definitely recommend a vist to the Chihuly Museum and Gardens. And to the cafe. But take your time. And go on a sunny day.

When have you been surprised by an art experience?

Haunting Book: A Murder in Time, by Julie McElwain

I’ve made a tradition of writing about “haunting books” on this blog each October, though last year I combined my list into a single post. This year, I’m going to try to write about a book that haunts me (stays with me after I’ve read it) each Monday through the month.

a-murder-in-time-cover-41awjnnqfnlAs I selected books to write about, I noticed that many of them haunted me because of how they dealt with time. My first “haunting book” this month is A Murder in Time, by Julie McElwain. This book might not haunt a lot of readers. On one level, it’s simply a time-travel fantasy. On another level, it’s simply a murder mystery.

But the book haunted me because I reflected as I read on how the author had to deal with same issues in writing about other times that I do in my historical fiction—but she got to be more overt about it, because her protagonist was a 21st century woman dumped into the early 19th century.

I read this book because my local library, the Mid-Continent Public Library, participated in a Big Read a few months ago through the Overdrive ebook service. McElwain’s book was selected as the Big Read book. I like the idea of community members all reading the same book, and I’ve tried to read many of the Big Read books the library has suggested in the last few years. Some I’ve really enjoyed, and others I haven’t been able to finish.

I like thrillers, and I like time-travel romances (one of the few forms of fantasy that does appeal to me—you can keep your vampires, werewolves, and most intergalactic aliens to yourself, thank you), so I thought I would like A Murder in Time. However, through the first few chapters, I wondered if this might be one of the books I couldn’t finish.

The novel begins as a typical shoot-em-up thriller with a gunfight in the 21st century in which the protagonist, Kendra Donovan, a young female FBI profiler, is injured. After she recovers, Kendra goes off to England to follow a bad guy, travels through a hidden portal in an English mansion, and abruptly finds herself in that same mansion in 1815. Only her wits will keep her alive—first simply to survive in a strange environment, and later to solve a series of murders that occurs around the mansion.

Despite the action, the first part of the book was boring, and there were also some slow parts later in the book. It wasn’t great literature, and a lot of the Goodreads reviews of the book point out its flaws. But ultimately I became engrossed in the plot.

As I got into A Murder in Time, I started thinking about the relative values of creature comforts and career options on the one hand and love and friendship on the other. If I had the choice between giving up the comforts of our time but following a true love, what would I do? A fantasy scenario, perhaps, but one that does require some self-evaluation.

Time-travel plots consider these types of questions more directly than most historical fiction, but the issues are there whenever authors write about the past. I’d thought about the lack of creature comforts as I wrote my novels about the Oregon Trail emigrants and Gold Rush miners. Much as I admire the emigrants to the West for their fortitude, I am glad I am not one of them, and I doubt I would voluntarily undertake any similar journey in my own lifetime.

McElwain expands on the differences that 200 years have made in society by making Kendra an FBI profiler—a woman, no less—who has to cope with the lack of scientific knowledge as gathers and processes evidence at the crime scenes. Kendra has to deal not only with the inability to examine blood types and DNA, but also with more rudimentary autopsy procedures. She also has to work around the presumptions about women’s roles and capabilities in the early 19th century.

So ultimately, I found the book haunting. And I recommend it if you like time-travel books, or even if you like to ruminate on how technology and mores have changed over time.

Although I won’t go into details about the plot to avoid spoilers, I want to add that the ending of A Murder in Time also haunts me. Did Kendra return to the 21st century or remain in the 19th? If she stayed, she would have had love and friendship that she didn’t have in the 21st century. If she returned, she would have the comforts we have and a promising career that did not exist in 1815. So there were reasons she might have chosen either option, and I won’t say any more.

Which would you have chosen?